Back in Australia already a month.
At first it felt surreal- Frank & I both felt like tourists in our home town with no yacht or house to call our own.
For the first time in our children’s lives, they were now ‘taking care ‘ of Frankie & I and seemed so proud to be in a position to offer us the hospitality of their own homes.
We have been given a newly painted room at Paul & Jenny’s house for our use, complete with comfy new sofa bed delivered just in time for our arrival & we couldn’t feel more welcome or comfortable basing ourselves with them whilst we are back in Brisbane.
Our first few days flew by, catching up with family & friends plus invites to Xmas festivities.
Frank & I still managed to fit in time to help son Paul for several days of painting the upstairs of his newly renovated home, whilst a team of workmen built a huge covered verandah that was complete enough to use for Christmas Day.
It has been exciting to be home after such a long time away, and though we felt as though we had very little time to prepare, we celebrated a wonderful Christmas with Jenny’s family, our 2 boys and their partners, and my father, with the obligatory overload of too much food and drink. We thoroughly enjoyed the day & shared many laughs together over a cheeky new board game given to Jenny’s sister ‘Jay’.
Knowing we are to become grandparents became all the more real seeing Jenny & Kylie blossoming in their pregnancies, only 5 weeks apart in their due dates, and I am so excited to share ‘baby talk’ and ideas with them both.
Now the painting is complete, Jenny & Paul have started to plan the new kitchen to be installed, furnish & decorate the upstairs area of their home & the nautical themed nursery for the new edition to the family in April.
Michael & Kylie are also living in the middle of big renovations, but are always happy to see us pop around as they only live 5 minutes away from Paul & Jenny. It was wonderful to catch up with adorable little Dante again who has grown and will turn 5 years old the same day as Kylie’s new baby is due on March 7th.
Marking the start of 2016 was a double celebration celebration as Jan 1st was my father’s 88th birthday. He has had some health issues, become more frail over the past 8 months & is very unsteady on his feet, but family & friends who know him well will not be surprised to hear that he is still strongly opinionated, enjoys an amazing appetite and knows precisely how much is in his bank account to the last cent!!
At the start of the New Year, we had a wonderful couple of days staying with our friend Nick in the stunning new home she shares with her parents on the riverbank at Tewantin, a couple of hours north of Brisbane.
Then, it was time to drive down to NSW in the New Year (a 6hr trip) to stay with Avery & her partner Chantelle on their 45 acre farm in Bonville, just south of Coffs Harbour. We hadn’t seen our daughter & Channie for almost a year and were very excited to see their new home for the first time.
The farm was built in 1936, originally as a dairy, until about 15 years ago when it was turned into a horse stud, when most of the land was separated into fields by timber post & rail fencing, with shelters in every paddock, stables with 5 stalls, a round ring for horse training, tack shed, 3 workshops & 2 machinery sheds plus a 6,000 bale hay shed.
Avery & Channie are slowly working towards creating a functional farm. So far they have a flock of sheep, four pigs & a few dozen chickens. They have built a large organic veggie patch and planted fruit trees, all in the hope of eventually maintaining a sustainable lifestyle from their farm and its produce.
Both work other jobs to pay for the renovations they have planned, and before too long, the old converted dairy (where we are staying- pics below), with its own self contained area will be used as a B & B, along with part of the homestead.
They have named the farm ‘Misty Mountain’ and it wasn’t until the rain fell today for the first time that we saw where the name came from- the lush green rolling hills that back their property as part of ‘Tucker’s Nob National Forest’ lay in a sea of fine mist as heavy rain blurred the landscape that merged into thick rain clouds beyond.
There is always plenty to do on such a large property so Frank & I have enjoyed showing our appreciation of our farm stay by helping wherever we can, painting newly renovated rooms, weeding & watering the veggie patch & I have been in my element re organizing rooms stashed high with packing boxes, furniture and miscellaneous ‘clutter’!
I have cooked some old family favourite meals for when Avery & Channie return from work and ‘Fixit’ Frank is doing ‘his thing’ trying to organize & set up wifi access from the homestead to the dairy building 100 metres away.
Frank & Avery spent one entire day on the tractor and a ride on mower, and still only managed to slash less than a quarter of the property. A week later, and it’s almost ready for another trim!
Mornings start early with animals to be fed, watered and let out before Avery & Channie head off to work.
Their 2 dogs get rigorous training for discipline, obedience & stock proofing and Lyca, their beautiful 12 month old husky/white shepherd is even showing potential to help with the herding of the animals.
Sparrow, their Boerboel (South African mastiff) pup has a way to go but is the most adorable, loving blob of ‘gorgeousness’ and is already almost too heavy to lift now at just 3 month’s old! He is expected to reach 65 kilo in weight and will be their guard dog for the property.
This week a young ram needed to be slaughtered, so after a full day of butchering, the freezer is now full of fresh home grown organic lamb. I tried to not overthink the natural process of life.
‘Eugene’ was a pretty ordinary ram, but we all agreed, he was the best roast we had ever tasted!
Avery still works for the ecological company where she has been working as a spotter/catcher (relocating animals & reptiles from areas being bulldozed for development) so we were not surprised when she returned home from work a couple of days ago with a carpet python she had rescued from a friends’ house. What freaked me out was that after showing ‘Tiger’ as the girls named the reptile, to Frank & I, they released it under their homestead so that it could catch the vermin & rats that were becoming a nuisance. I think I would prefer to be bailed up by a scared rodent rather than an angry 9 foot carpet python!!!
People who know me, will not be surprised to hear that I am already having a few ‘issues’ staying in the rustic dairy.
We have had some incredibly hot weather whilst we have been staying here, so we need to open all the doors of the dairy to let some of the heat out of the building. This also lets IN all the critters, creepy crawlies, spiders & snakes that I am terrified are lying in wait for me if I need to make a bathroom visit in the night.
I make sure Frank has shut up the doors before it gets dark, as leaving lights on has already introduced us to the wonders of flying insects dropping from the ceiling as we lay reading our ebooks in bed!
I have even tried cutting back my intake of liquids at night to avoid the need to get up, but as I lay there in the dark, trying to convince myself that I do NOT need to use the bathroom, I find it impossible to go back to sleep. My brain clicks into gear, and every fibre of my soul tells me that I probably DO need to make a visit because if I don’t go then I will lie awake for hours thinking about it anyway!
So when the urge becomes too strong, torch in hand, thongs on my feet, I tiptoe through the long dark dairy, into the kitchen area (that has some serious rodent issues) and outside to where the bathroom is situated. I cautiously open the sliding door (that I have ensured is closed at all times to avoid unwanted visitors!), and pray that my hand will not touch something soft & squirmy as I reach to turn on the light. I peer around the door and scour the walls, floor & ceiling for any movement. Once reassured there is nothing to scare me, I peer behind the toilet as Avery had neglected to keep secret the story about how one of their builders got the scare of his life when he discovered a red belly black snake behind the toilet just as he sat down to do his business.
Finally reassured all is OK, I am able to use the bathroom and make the return trip back to bed, sighing with relief that I am safe for another night.
Despite all my pathetic phobias, I love being here, and Frank & I are thoroughly enjoying our time here on the farm, appreciating the beauty and tranquility of Misty Mountain.
Yesterday, we all had a day out to nearby Bellingen,. Being market day, it was full of interesting ‘alternative’ locals and tourists all enjoying the atmosphere & variety of cafe’s & restaurants, shops and fresh organic produce.
We look forward to another week or so here at Misty Mountain before we continue our road trip down to Sydney to catch up with more family & friends.